Due to the increasing number of COVID-19 infections, the Beijing government postponed the Central Economic Work Conference. A French Sinologist published an article on Tuesday, December 13 pointing out that the speed at which the CCP’s “zero-COVID” policy is changing is questionable. This seems to be the opposite of how the CCP has done things in the past.

China’s Central Economic Work Conference postponed due to COVID

Bloomberg reported that, according to people familiar with the matter, due to the sudden increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Beijing government decided to postpone the Central Economic Work Conference originally scheduled for last week.

The Central Economic Work Conference is normally held for three days, and then a report is published. But the annual economic growth target will be officially announced at two meetings in March 2023.

According to Bloomberg, Chinese authorities have not yet determined when the next meeting will be.

What happened inside Zhongnanhai?

French Sinologist Jean-Philippe Béja published a column in Le Monde on December 13, arguing that after the large-scale street protests occurred in many parts of China and were suppressed, the “zero-COVID” policy of the Chinese regime quickly changed, so what happened inside the CCP?

Béja wrote that since the founding of the CCP in 1949, for the first time, protesters demanded that Xi Jinping step down and chanted the slogan “Down with the Communist Party!” and clearly defined their political request as we “want freedom, we want the rule of law!”

To Béja’s knowledge, Chinese authorities have begun to use high-tech means to search for protesters. In the past few days, a number of young protesters have been approached by police or received threatening calls from the police, many of whom had to remove firewall applications (VPNs) like Telegram and Signal, to communicate and mobilize protests. In China, circumventing the firewall is considered illegal by the CCP and subject to arrest.

Universities in China will give students the Lunar New Year break a month early to prevent them from congregating on campus and holding further protests. In addition, police have seized suspected protest sites in several cities and arrested those who dared to go there.

Béja wrote, “Who would have thought that the “zero-COVID” policy personally decided by Xi Jinping, symbolizing the superiority of the socialist system, would be thrown away so quickly under the pressure of the street protests?” This is not the case with the previous approach of the CCP. the usual practice of the CCP is to first suppress and imprison leaders, and then adjust some policies to assuage discontent. The rapid change in attitude of the CCP today makes one wonder what is going on within the CCP.

Béja believed that despite Xi’s victory on October 23, people still doubt whether there is infighting within the Party. Although there isn’t even an opposition faction on the Politburo Standing Committee, does Xi have any enemies in the Party? Maybe some in the leadership blamed him for the “zero-COVID” policy that has done so much damage to the economy and fueled public discontent? Did some leaders force Xi to change course? Either way, after a month in power, the protests appear to have undermined Xi’s hard-line image.

Surprising statements from Chinese state media

Béja pointed out that it is remarkable that the obituary published by the CCP’s People’s Daily on the death of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin was shocking. It normally represents the opinion of the entire CCP leadership, yet Jiang’s obituary contains a surprising claim that he voluntarily proposed leaving the CCP Central Committee before the CCP’s 16th National Congress, relinquishing the post of Party and state leadership, as well as promoting the replacement of the old with the new leadership.

Béja said that the passage appeared to be a direct criticism of Xi. Although he was elected to a third term Xi has yet to name a successor.

Béja said that people did not understand how such a blatant criticism could appear in such an important document published in all the newspapers in China, and also be broadcast on radio and television? How will Xi react? Does he have all the power in his hands? Will he do some self-reflection and retreat to the “second line” as Mao Zedong did after the Great Leap Forward in 1962?

Béja believed that there may be some incidents in the future.

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